The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

Lawsuit Provokes Food Fight Over Soy In Illinois Prisons

Prison inmates are probably so beyond complaining about the quality of the food, which might be even worse than dorm food, that it's not really issue for them. But there's a difference between crappy food and unhealthy or even harmful food.

Nine plaintiffs have filed suit in US District Court over the alleged overuse of soy products by the Illinois Department of Corrections (Tribune), once thought to be a panacea for vegetarians but which carries its own health risks.

Like corn, soy is a cheap (i.e. heavily subsidized) and mass-produced agricultural commodity that scientists have manipulated into virtually every corner of the supermarket.

The soy-stuffed inmates have suffered from acute allergic reactions, heart problems, gastrointestinal distress and thyroid dysfunction, according to the negligence complaint.

Weston A. Price Foundation is footing the bill for the suit, which is in line with the food and nutrition organization's support of traditionally prepared, minimally processed, whole foods. 

And while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends no more than 25 grams of the heavily processed protein per day, Illinois inmates allegedly eat up to 100 grams of soy daily.

Inmates from prisons throughout the state have complained about the amount of soy they're served, including plaintiff and former inmate Thomas Salonis. He was diagnosed by a prison doctor as being allergic to soy and claims to have passed out from soy-induced gastrointestinal pain last year.

The Soyfoods Association of North America, however, came to the defense of soy - or at least cast doubt on the claim that inmates eat 100 grams a day. Nancy Chapman, the organization's executive director, said:

"One hundred grams of any protein from plants or animals would not be economically feasible and would be an enormous load on the kidneys." 

Here are some of the soy meals consumed by Illinois prisoners in a typical week, as listed by the Tribune: "Soy-enhanced chili mac, turkey paties with soy, soy-studded country gravy, soy-blend hot dogs, soy-spiked sloppy joes, Polish sausages packed with soy and soy chicken patties."

Does that make your mouth water? Yeah, me neither.